Hello Handsome! Part 1: How?

1350 on the dyno at Mercury Racing. With the air boxes and covers removed, one can view some of its inner beauty.

Two years ago, I received a call from Skip Braver, owner of Cigarette Racing. He had just received the first 1350 for his AMG Cigarette: “I don’t want your head to explode, but that is one, handsome engine. Just gorgeous!” Thanks, Skip. Flattering. But how did “handsome” happen?

AMG Cigarette: Form follows function. Beautifully. (Photo courtesy of Cigarette Racing)

Function. First, beauty is deep in the soul of Mercury Racing’s QC4v platform, as well as on the surface: it works as intended; it fulfills the needs and desires of its owners better than any engine offered before. In short, it functions as it should (and better than most customers expected). Function defined the structure.

Form. Second, form followed function. I’ve become somewhat infamous for a comment I made back in the 1980s: “Where is it written, that because it is strong, it must be ugly?” This was a discussion with my manufacturing guy at that time, the late Bill Hackbarth. Bill, a stubborn pragmatist, didn’t like the form of the Kiekhaefer sterndrive (now #6) because he couldn’t figure out how to hold the curvacious upper gear housing in a machining fixture. We changed the form, adding a big lug, so he could clamp it tight. When machining was done, we ground that part back off. Propulsion should look good, but… Form follows function.

Erik Christiansen with his baby: the proof-of-concept QC4v’s 1st prototype.

Twenty years later, I had another blank canvas – Erik Christiansen’s concept that would become the QC4v platform. Power, torque and durability targets dictated pressure charging, displacement and the valve train approach. The “packaging envelop” (fitting in available space) dictated the V-8 configuration. Air, fuel, exhaust, oil and cooling water flows dictated most of the rest of the functional space requirements. Then, what could it look like? What should it look like? Certainly, not like our first proof-of-concept prototype.

Impression. With a performance boat, the engine compartment is a place of great impressions – a showcase of power and style – as well as practicality. In my view, an engine should communicate its technology without being superfluous. Components need to be protected, yet serviceable. Its surfaces should be durable and easily cleaned. It should be easily color customized to fit a boat’s individual design theme – whether subtle or outrageous. Either way, it needs to make an impression just sitting there! And it must fulfill that impression when under way. Form follows function.

The engine bay of Mike Stevens’ DCB M35, filled with 1350s, is just brilliant!

Language. Styling folks, like most professionals, like to talk with their own short-hand jargon. I’ve been around enough of them to have heard things like “design DNA” (Porsche’s particularly big on that one) and lines suggesting “movement” (Todd Dannenburg, styling don at Mother Mercury, uses both). But my all-time favorite is “negligee” – no, really, even as a design concept! Negligee is a design element that hints of a prize beneath – like the mesh screen over the engine on a Porsche Carrera GT – just a peak, suggestive and promising, but not too revealing.

Porsche negligee modeled by two CGT hotties!

Well, all these styling concepts can be found when looking closely at our 1350 – some are even there on purpose! In my next posts, I’ll show you my methods and some of the resulting details.

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